I NEED YOUR HELP! 4x5 Field Camera

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have been charged with helping my sister get into 4x5 from her current 6x6. I need some good recommendations on light-weight filed cameras and light-weight lenses. I'm still using my old 5x7 Deardorf, six-legged Majestic, and monster Schneider optics that I bought 30 years ago, and I haven't bothered to look at the market since. IOW, I'm not the "expert" she needs. Hence my appeal to the list.

A photo-friend of hers is strongly recommending the TOYO VX125, which looks like a great camera, but is awfully expensive. Since the camera is only the beginning of a long list of lenses, enlargers, tanks, etc. that she will have to purchase, I would like to give her some options for other good field cameras that would suit her needs.

Sooooo.... What would you all suggest in a light-weight 4x5, and correspondingly small optics? Her most used lens on the Hasselblad is the 120mm, so I'm guessing that a 240mm would be a good starting point for her main 4x5 lens. I know that Fuji and Rodenstock make little 240's. Any others? How about in the 150/135 range, or a wide angle?


-- Anthony Sanna (asanna@sacofoods.com), March 06, 2000


Tony: What is she going to use it for? Indoors, outdoors, commercial work, portraits, backpacking, etc? What is the longest focal length and the shortest she will be using? All these criteria are important when choosing a 4x5. There are many on this forum with the knowledge to help make an intelligent choice, but more info is needed. Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), March 06, 2000.

Addendum to my Question:

My sister's gear is strictly for field work. She's not really a backpacker, but for treks from the car into the woods or around Death Valley she wants to have it as small and light as possible.

As far as lenses go, I think for right now she'll be using 240mm or less, although I would be hesitant recommending a camera with bellows limited to 300mm or so. Actually, there seem to be some nice 300mm small lenses out there as options to the 240mm, so it would be nice if the bellows draw would be enough to accommodate something of that focal

-- Anthony Sanna (asanna@sacofoods.com), March 06, 2000.

Most field cameras will have a double extension bellows, which will give you about 300mm, so using longer lenses will not let you focus close. I find that Death Valley screams for wide angles. A good used 90mm SA will give some dramatic near/far views on 4x5. Light weight also. If you want to use longer than normal, maybe a 210 would be more useful.

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), March 06, 2000.


Here is my two cents worth... if she isn't into long backpacks, and a 300 is the longest lens she might use... I would recommend a Toyo 45 field, either a 45AX, 45AII or an older 45A... they can be had for about $1000-$1500...they are basically the same camera except for revolving vs. horizontal/vertical back... she needs to make sure 4x5 is comfortable before investing in something as pricey as a Toyo VX125. You should look at Kerry Thalmans and Chris Perez's recommendations for lenses. The 240 Fujinon is nice, but a 200-210 is more versatile if she is also going to have a 300. Personally, I use a 3 lens setup... a 110, 180 and 300. Many prefer wider and go with a 90-150-240 setup. A 110 and 240 would make a nice 2 lens combo.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), March 06, 2000.

Your sister is the one that should be asking the questions. The range of applications, prices, accesories is far to wide to place anyone but the individual that will be behind the ground glass from the decision making process and the legwork leading up to it. I only state this from prior experience. The range of emotions relating from perceived expectations to realism after the acquisition is made is as wide as the Grand Canyon. I do not doubt that your expectations re sincere, but she will eventually need to understand all of this material to use the product. Put the ball back in her court and you will be actually doing her a favor.

If she does not have a computer, try the local library.

-- Michael Kadillak (m.kadillak@att.net), March 06, 2000.

I absolutley love my Phillips 4x5. It has an international back, a combination bellows that allows lens from 75mm to 300mm with the same bellows, a fresnel for easy focusing and it only weighs about 4.5 pounds. The design is well thought out and it is extremely rigid.

-- Paul Mongillo (pmongillo@thurston.com), March 06, 2000.

I strongly recommend the Canham 45DLC camera. Light (4.5 to 4.75lbs); very rigid; needs no accessory bellows or extension rails for full movements with lenses ranging from 58 mm to the Nikon 720 mm telephoto; a very bright viewing screen; can be focused with either the left (moves the rear standard) or right (moves the front standard) hand; can use Canham or Toyo lensboards, or with an adapter, the Linhof technika boards; and is about or less than half as expensive as the Toyo.

As for lenses: the Schneider 110 XL Super Symmar, the 300mm f/9 M-Nikkor, and a 180 mm or 210 mm from Nikon, Rodenstock (or the Caltar II badged version of the same lens), or the Schneider. Does she have a tripod? if not she should get a Gitzo carbon fiber legset, probably the 1325, and unless she wants a ballhead, the BogenManfrotto #410, a medium weight geared head.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), March 06, 2000.

I meant to tell you how much my Phillips 4x5 cost. All of the above was just under $1800 with two lens boards. You can get it cheaper with a different back and bellows.

-- Paul Mongillo (pmongillo@thurston.com), March 06, 2000.

A pretty helpful review of 4 x 5 cameras, can be found in an internet-published article by Tom Fuller, '96 Mid Year Large-Format Camera Round-up, at www.rangefindernetwork.com/archive/ large-format.html.

-- David Caldwell (caldw@aol.com), March 06, 2000.

The above link to the Rangefinder article on large-format cameras is incorrect. It should be:


-- Ross Martin (rossemartin@msn.com), March 06, 2000.

She may want to think about a Speed Graphic. I have gotten pretty good at hand holding mine. I just dont have the legs to carry a big tripod any more. I like to use the rangefinder. Plus they can be used to prod bears away.

-- Tony Brent (ajbrent@mich.com), March 07, 2000.

Used wooden field, preferrably with enough bellows draw to use a 300mm lens (however, I've equipped my Wista with an extended lensboard for my 300 and it works nicely on the short bellows), used f8 90mm SA (smallest of the bunch), used 135 Angulon or equivalent, used normal 210 (Caltar, Nikkor M etc. Mine is an Ektar 203 f7.7), Nikkor M 300. This is all she will need for years in the field, maybe even for life! My wooden field is a Wista, chosen for its small size (and price!), but the Wisner, Wisner Pocket Expidition, Toyos etc. etc all are excellent machines. The main thing is used. You can set yourself up with the above for well under $3000, maybe even under $2000 if you get lucky. As for tripods, contrary to the common wisdom, my philosophy is "use the smallest tripod possible". Sure, in the wind and storm a monster tripod is steadier, but my Bogen 3001 (the smallest in their line) holds the Wista with a 300mm lens plenty still in 99% of the situations and is really a joy to carry in the field compared to some of the monsters I've had to drag around! Maybe she might even get a few feet farther from the car if she had a lightweight outfit! Good Luck, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), March 10, 2000.

Hi Tony, Check the ARCA SWISS cameras! The DISCOVERY model or an F-Line with the 6x9 Front standard and the 4x5 Back with collapsible rail will be a great and light wight tool for outdoor. Or go for a WALKER TITAN (Bromwell Marketing or Calumet). It is a wunderfull tool as well. With a Rodenstock Apo-Sironar N 135 this camera is even foldable with the lens on. It is THE CAMERA for all weather conditions. The tripod could be a BERLEBACH Report 8023 with a GITZO low profile head 1250. Either way your sister will have great tools. The only thing she need more is a good eye.

Dont go for the TOYO VX125. It is to expensiv for what it is. (basically the material used in the Toyo cameras is not as good as it looks. You will notice that after a few years of working.)

Good luck, Urs

-- Urs Bernhard (ursworkvision@bluewin.ch), March 12, 2000.

I have 2 field 4X5 cameras, one is Linhof and the other is Tachihara filstand 4X5. Linhof is probably too expensive and heavy but I strongly recommend Tachihara wood field camera for your sister. I have used Deardorff 8X10 camera, and now I use also Tachihara 8X10 and noticed Today`s Tachihara`s construction is good as Deerdorf. Tachihara is slightly lighter than Deardorff and much much cheaper than Used Deardorff.

For lenses, a lot of Wide type 150mm from schneider, Nikkor, and Fuji are small and light weight. I have Fuji A240mm which is very sharp and very compact. For wide angle, I feel Schneider 90mm 8.0 is not so heavy and has enough image circl(170mm)e. Some old wide lenses like angulon, topcor etc. is much smaller but have small image circles for 4X5. ( Usually 150mm to 155mm)

-- take j.Fuber (tfunyu@white.plala.or.jp), March 13, 2000.

Popular Photography had a review of 4x5 camera within the last 18 months which might be helpful.

-- Chris Hawkins (peace@clover.net), March 13, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ